This short story is a synthesis of my own personal beliefs based on multiple years of experience working with globally leading companies Hallmarks.

As leadership is no exact science to say the least, I am happy to be challenged on my beliefs. The story is a synthesis of viewpoints obtained in my professional career and insights gained from reading books on the topic mixed with general reflection.

It forms a personal north star for how I want to act as a leader, but naturally, as I continue to gain new experiences and read more, these hallmarks and subsequent actions to take will likely be modified. Some might even be removed or substituted with new ones. Luckily, the prior sentence acts as a nice segue to the first hallmark of a great leader.

1. Great leaders dare to experiment:

Insisting that one has unlocked the one and only path to leading people, regardless of who they are, is a sure-fire way to be anything but a great leader. It takes a willingness to continuously improve and learn to both become and remain a great leader.

As part of learning, you need to document your experiments and the results of them. Knowledge of what exactly went wrong or caused the success will deteriorate over time, which is why documentation is key. Even simple scribbles in a dedicated notebook is better than nothing.

Two proposed actions to take as a great Hallmarks:

Larger action: Ask your team to identify 3–5 big bets each cycle that, if successful, will radically alter your industry or your company. Identify a way to at least pursue one of those bets as part of your cyclical planning.
Smaller action: Try out one new way of running recurring meetings at least once a month (not so frequent that you lose the groove, not so rarely that you cannot even remember the other attempted styles).

2. Great leaders balance accountability vs. creativity

For projects or larger tasks, a great leader should evaluate three things to judge whether to strictly oversee the process or let people run:
Seniority of the person in charge of the project/task
A more senior person should give more creative freedom with more. Accountability for the result of the proposed result

Degree of task Hallmarks.

The more difficult a task, the more creativity is needed to solve it. Hence, a great manager should focus less on accountability and rather acknowledge that solutions are more likely to fail as a result of the difficulty.
Amount of stupid risks
The higher the amount of risk involved with the task, the less a great manager should allow for creativity and rather ensure a high degree of accountability.

Hallmarks One proposed action to take as a great leader:

Keep a 2×2 matrix of accountability vs. creativity and pull it up as part of team talks to discuss how people perceive the balance

3. Great leaders own the outcome, not the solution:

Speaking of accountability, great leaders are aware that they are accountable for the outcome of a given project or solution, but not for the solution itself. This means that if a team has delivered a truly innovative solution to a problem never solved before, credit for the solution should go the team, not the leader. The leader facilitated the process, but the team invented the solution. This may seem intuitive, but I see so many leaders carry away here when the team is not around.

As a result of owning the outcome. A great leader has to make the “why” (as in; why do we need to do what is propose?”). Clear to everyone in the team. Then it is up to the team to identify proposals for “how” and “what” to achieve the “why”.

One proposed action to take as a great leader:

Frequently share the “why” and directly ask how a proposed solution will help to achieve it. No major tasks or projects should start without a clear connection to the overarching “why”.

4. Great leaders ensure that those around them continue to learn.

Great leaders reflect, both alone and together with the team. A great leader appreciates and expects team members to demand challenges or desire new things to learn. Great leader sees a team member spending 1 day a week for 2 months.
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Gaining a new skill as a necessity to remain excited about their position. Rather than as a necessary one-off evil.

A great leader also embraces change and is willing. Admit own failures and reflect on how to avoid those going forward in order to ensure personal development. A great leader cannot expect those around him. To love improving themselves, while remaining static and incapable of modifying own habits.

Two proposed actions to take as a great leader:

Host bi-weekly team talks and agree on 3 concrete actions for next 14 days as a result of it.
Commit to quarterly development goals and follow up. On them in feedback conversations. (ideally even share them openly with the rest of the team).

5. Great leaders express gratitude, honesty and Hallmarks.

Simple piece of advice: it is a lot easier to collaborate with someone.
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if you know what they are thinking about, care about how they are doing. Give them honest feedback on the quality of their work. If someone did something incredible. Tell them and rave about how amazed you are. If someone delivered something subpar, tell them. Identify a way to support them in improving next time.

Leading someone requires you be empathic and see things from their view. This is best when you know their weaknesses. What is going on in their mind to a certain extent. Have discussed with them how to support them when things get challenging.

Getting this sort of information:

From another person requires the other person to be honest hence why you should also replicate that honesty.
Luckily, this then becomes a positive reinforcing loop, where the more honesty you show, the more is reciprocated and the easier it is to lead people.

If you recognise your own flaws and challenges. Dare to share them with your team and tell them to help you in overcoming them. You are reducing a potential weakness and as a result making you. The team more likely to succeed.